Kevin Jonas is the president of and a full-time volunteer
with Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (USA). He is also one
of the seven individuals recently indicted on federal Animal
Enterprise Terrorism charges. Kevin’s activist experiences
have ranged from college animal rights activism, to factory
farm investigations, to volunteering as an A.L.F. spokesperson,
to working on successful UK fur and vivisection campaigns.
Despite the onslaught of lawsuits and attacks from the feds,
Kevin took some time to talk to No Compromise and offer some
perspective on the HLS campaign and grassroots activism.
NC: When and how did you get your start in animal
It all started with a beagle named Barney. As a child, my
life was enriched by my little canine companion. We shared
meals and cuddles and got into trouble together. These memories
of Barney began to haunt me in high school, after a friend
showed me a PETA videotape exposing the use of beagles in
smoking studies. As appalling and as wrong as I knew this
was, I could not articulate exactly why it was wrong.
While the concept of animal rights seemed so foreign at the
time, environmentalism did not. I began boycotting McDonalds
because the beef used was from clear-cut rainforest lands.
This boycott of McDonalds led to my giving up meat all together.
In reading up about the ecological impact of my new vegetarianism,
I was exposed to animal rights philosophy. After quickly devouring
several books on the matter (Animal Liberation, The Case for
Animal Rights, etc), what I had felt was so unconscionable
about those smoking studies started to make complete sense.
The intelligence and logic of these animal rights arguments,
coupled with the compassionate ethic encouraged by my beagle
buddy, inspired in me a reassessment of justice and fueled
my growing indignation. While attending college I quickly
became involved with the Student Organization for Animal Rights
(SOAR), and from there on out I really grew as a person and
NC: These days, you are known for your involvement
with the SHAC campaign. Before that, what campaigns did you
While working with SOAR I participated in many animal rights
activities. We pushed for more vegan food in dorms, protested
the circus when it came to town, locked ourselves together
inside of Neiman Marcus on more than one occasion, took over
the office of a primate researcher as a press stunt, and hosted
many great animal rights speakers. We were the most active
student group on campus during my years of higher education.
During these college years I also assisted in a handful of
undercover investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses
in the Midwest. All-night drives, sloshing through shit, and
recording some of the most ghastly acts of violence I wish
I could forget was tough work, but they paid off as the images
are now shown regularly on cable access shows and educational
I also worked as an intern with the A.L.F. Press Office,
which not only got me into a bit of trouble – but also
course credit, as the internship was approved by the Political
Post graduation, I spent a year in England working full time
on animal rights campaigns and there really cut my teeth on
some ‘true grit’ activism. I helped shut down
two of London’s last few fur stores (including the furrier
to the Queen), plus saw the closure of Shamrock Monkey Farm
and Regal Rabbits. It was a ‘smashing’ time to
NC: Your involvement with the A.L.F. Press Office
in Minnesota led to a raid on your home. How did you deal
with this, and did it affect your outlook on activism?
I can say this much: It seems to get easier every time they
(FBI agents) come a knocking. I have always had this penchant
for not being around when the police show up. Whenever the
F.B.I has raided my homes in Minnesota, in New Jersey, and
in the UK, they have always just missed me by an hour. Dumb
luck, I guess. I dealt with it like any normal person, I suppose.
I was upset and felt a bit violated, but I understood that
this is the price social change activists have always had
How I viewed activism changed a lot after this, and I really
began understanding the animal rights movement is a struggle.
To advocate that we end the exploitation of all non-human
animals means we challenge global economies, religions, fashion
trends, and what our palates are trained to crave –
and that’s something that we just can’t work for
as a hobby, to say the least.
NC: You have been an unapologetic supporter of the
A.L.F. since your days with SOAR. Why is it important for
above ground activists to support the Animal Liberation Front?
We should be so proud that we can count among ourselves,
ordinary people willing to risk life and limb for those of
another. We should be honored our movement has a modern-day
Underground Railroad. The actions the A.L.F. take symbolize
to me both courage and hope that this movement is strong enough
to one day succeed. Our (aboveground) support of A.L.F. actions
demonstrates that we are consistent in our principles and
are truly rejecting speciesism. If we thought it was right
for Harriet Tubman to liberate people, for Nelson Mandela
to lead an armed revolt, and for the celebrators of the Boston
tea party to engage in economic sabotage, then by all means
our movement has to say the same thing when these things are
done in defense of animals.
A.L.F. members are selfless in their actions and are not
asking for help, but because they advance our shared political
cause we owe them our support. We owe it to them by means
of exploiting the press attention they stir, by writing our
letters of support to those who are captured, and by discussing
their contributions within a proper historical context.
NC: You spent some time in England working on campaigns
there. As you know, many grassroots groups in the States look
to the UK as being “way ahead of us” in tactics
and achievements. After campaigning on both sides of the Atlantic,
what is your response to this perspective?
The U.K. certainly has had its share of major achievements
and has pioneered some of the most important strategies and
organizing techniques the animal rights movement has ever
known, but I wouldn’t diminish through comparison what
has been accomplished in the U.S.
British campaigns are incredible because they bring out people
opposed to animal cruelty from all walks of life. Their issues
and activism seem to be taken more seriously by the general
public because it is the general public that comprises their
campaigns. I wish this were the case in the U.S. and our efforts
were not so youth-heavy. British direct action campaigns additionally
have the luxury of a more civilized criminal justice system
that prosecutes based on the crime, not the politics behind
it. I feel our U.S. system unconstitutionally disadvantages
those noble few who break unjust laws to help animals, but
this also speaks volumes regarding the dedication of those
here who go underground nonetheless.
There is a lot to be learned from the U.K. successes, and
I think this has been done. SHAC is an example of U.K. strategies
being exported and meeting success stateside. The U.S. also
has pushed ahead where others have not. In my personal opinion
the U.S. has seen the biggest and most influential A.L.F.
raids, a more press-savvy approach to campaigning and influential,
national organizations rising out of grassroots, direct-action
based efforts (PETA, LCA, Sea Shepherd, and now SHAC).
NC: SHAC USA was started in the U.S. in 2001. At
that point, how long did you see the campaign against HLS
When SHAC USA first started I personally thought Huntingdon
would close when Stephens, Inc. divested. The loan the Little
Rock-based firm extended to the lab was all that was keeping
it open. Now we know, from interviews and released records,
that indeed the U.S. SHAC efforts did beat the stubborn Stephens
empire into the ground, but the British government’s
intervention helped HLS negotiate a refinancing and kept it
Essentially, SHAC did win, only to have its victory stolen
away by a major, first world government. Talk about power!
The same blow was dealt to us when SHAC beat the world’s
largest insurance company, Marsh Inc, and HLS was faced with
having no legally mandated, operational insurance. Again,
by the corrupted grace of the British government, HLS was
given the unprecedented coverage of the Department of Trade
and Industry. Who says SHAC tactics don’t work?
Governmental intervention can only last so long, however,
especially with the current customer campaign. It is one thing
for the lab to be extended certain financial facilities?,
but the government cannot force companies to contract to HLS.
NC: In your opinion, what have been some of the most
effective actions against HLS and its supporters thus far?
Tough question. First of all I think what has made this campaign
a success is a combination of literally thousands of demonstrations
and actions. There is no single action that defines the SHAC
movement, but there are certainly highlights, in my opinion.
I think the October 29th ‘weekend of action’ was
amazing. It combined legitimate speakers in a press-heavy,
town hall meeting, the biggest home demo in U.S. animal rights
history, and one of the most effective street protests this
young U.S. movement has ever seen. I also thought the smoke
and stink bombs that evacuated the Seattle Marsh and Stephens
buildings were really effective (and funny). And of course,
the liberations-- something about seeing all those Marshall
Farms beagles romping around is enough to keep me going for
NC: SHAC USA, as well as dozens of activists and
organizations, has been a target of multiple lawsuits around
the country. How have you seen all the lawsuits affect the
campaign against HLS?
These lawsuits have generally done exactly what those suing
us have been trying to prevent. They spurred on direct action
against them. Suing those who are most recognizably opposed
to HLS – regardless of whether or not they may have
broken any laws-- only serves to reinforce the injustice of
the companies and the limits (and pitfalls) of aboveground
activism. I think these SLAPP suits have done more to teach
activists the importance of adopting security culture, not
waiting around for the police during home demonstrations,
and perhaps even foregoing above-ground demonstrations for
those where you have less chance of being caught and sued.
NC: What do you see the SHAC campaign achieving,
above and beyond the closure of Huntingdon Life Sciences?
In my opinion SHAC has already won and closing Huntingdon
is just the formality. For three years, the SHAC campaign
has gripped the U.S. animal rights movement and changed the
face of grassroots activism. It has provided a refreshing
and necessary alternative to animal advocacy that breaks away
from the confines of sanctioned forms of social change. The
campaign has been praised and it has been derided. It has
been applauded for breathing life into an otherwise stagnant
movement and has been criticized for its tendency to ‘steal
the show.’ From its start, SHAC has been a campaign
of strategy and opportunity. Its primary objective is the
closure of HLS, but by no stretch of the imagination is this
where the goals stop.
Believing it necessary to take risks and act boldly, SHAC
has followed in the movement- building tradition of PETA as
they controversially worked with the A.L.F. in exposing the
horrors of vivisection, Sea Shepherd as they rammed, mined,
and sunk whaling fleets across the world, and Last Chance
for Animals as they literally kicked down the doors to the
UCLA animal labs with a CNN camera crew. SHAC is the equally
controversial, 21st century extension to what has made this
movement a success.
SHAC has trail-blazed a plan of corporate attack that has
left industries shaking. The uncontrollability of secondary
and tertiary targeting has seen HLS lose 90% of its worth.
With a footing in eighteen different countries, the SHAC campaign
has globalized the movement and has brought accountability
to corporations desperate to escape scrutiny and pressure.
The campaign has already had a huge impact on the pharmaceutical
industry, where companies like Chiron have lost over $2.5
million from the protest activity and have had their workplace
culture permanently damaged for the worse.
Under the banner of SHAC, tactical ingenuity has been bred.
The campaign has seen yachts sunk, office complexes evacuated,
credit cards stolen, mock animal grave yards erected in front
lawns, and computer activism taken to a whole new level of
sophistication. Most importantly, SHAC has used the mainstream
product-testing issue as its gateway drug to bring new activists
to a full-blown, animal liberation addiction.
NC: Is victory on the horizon in this campaign?
Yes. It always is and there is no stopping until it’s
achieved. In the meantime, we are making history with what’s
NC: A great deal of fuss has been made about SHAC
USA's tactics. Some individuals and organizations in the animal
advocacy movement find the campaign's approach too controversial.
Others feel it gives the movement a bad name. How do you respond
to these concerns?
I really don’t care what people in the animal advocacy
movement have to say. If these critics are not proud enough
to call themselves animal rights activists or do not believe
in animal rights, their opinions mean nothing.
Secondly, there is no such thing as ‘SHAC USA’s
tactics.’ This is a campaign made up of people from
all points of advocacy, engaging in everything from letters
to litigation. Ninety percent of what goes on the SHAC campaign
in the background is just good, ol’ fashioned, plain
organizing. What grabs the most attention-- both because it
is sexy and effective-- is the direct action element. This
element, combined with the rest of the campaign, is doing
to a lab-- really to a whole industry-- what so many of these
critics have failed to do themselves. SHAC is being bold and
taking risks. It is trying new things because the safe approaches
are tired, boring, and guess what? They are not achieving
The bad name SHAC is giving the movement cannot be really
considered a criticism, as at least it is giving the movement
a name. PETA faces this same whining over its stunts, and
I couldn’t agree more with its response: that it really
cannot get much worse for animals than it is already, so if
we can at least get people talking about the issue, albeit
sometimes negatively, we are accomplishing something. Martin
Luther King, the suffragettes, trade unions, anti-war organizers
and gay rights activists have all been smeared by the press.
If we start to let the likes of Fox News set our tactical
agenda out of fear of displeasing them, then the animals really
have no hope.
NC: You have been an outspoken advocate of controversial
tactics. Do you think the change in the political atmosphere
over the past few years demands a shift to softer tactics?
Nothing I personally support is controversial. The mainstream
public supports what I support and a whole hell of a lot more.
The public supports liberations, property destruction, arson,
violence, terrorism, and war. The only difference is that
the public supports it for human issues, though. It’s
not the tactics that are controversial; it’s what we
are fighting for. Animal liberation is the point of contention
and is what needs constant debating, not the tactics. This
is something I am afraid, all too many A.L.F. press officers
have failed to understand.
Do I think the current political climate demands the animal
rights movement shift to softer tactics? Well, considering
more animals will die this year than the year before, and
that this will likely be the same for next year and the year
after, I should think not. “Harder” tactics don’t
necessarily mean law-breaking though; it means thinking outside
the box of prescribed methods we are told we can use, but
that we know are not working. I don’t think you could
run a SHAC-type campaign against any company in any industry.
I think the SHAC campaign works because it is against HLS
in this vivisection industry.